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Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird by Toni Cade Bambara

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Presentation on theme: "Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird by Toni Cade Bambara"— Presentation transcript:

1 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird by Toni Cade Bambara
Lesson developed by Susan Lenski This short story was written in 1971 but has themes that are extremely timely and relevant. It’s typically read at 9th grade, but could be used for any grade from I measured the Lexile level at 990 which is in the range for grade 9. The story is a bit tough to read and a little slow going because of the dialect. I decided to focus on three things to help students understand the story: 1) the connection of the Civil Rights abuses to the present day privacy issues which follows the larger theme about understanding power and privilege, 2) discussion of dialect in literature and African American English, and 3) how an author displays evidence in the story to develop characters. I decided to assess only the first two ideas. Music: I decided to play some rhythm and blues as students walk into the class so they can get a sense of the music of the time period. Here’s my chance to play my favorite song, Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” I know students may not like this music, but I think it will set the background for discussions about the s.

2 Please think about these questions and answer with “yes” or “no.”
Friends can take my picture with their cell phones any time they want to. It’s OK for a stranger to take my picture with a cell phone when I’m not looking. Government officials have the right to take pictures of anyone at any time. I decided to draw in the students right away with Anticipation Guide questions that are relevant to their lives right now. I started with two questions that are more connected to today’s society, and then I asked the third question so students could make a connection to one of the themes in the story. I’m expecting some students to say “yes” to the first questions; most students to say “no” on the second questions, and a split on the third question. I expect students to be highly engaged in this discussion.

3 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird
YouTube “movie trailer”

4 Reading Dialect This story was written by Toni Cade Bambara in It’s written in a form called “dialect,” which means that it’s written the way people talked at that time in that region. We’ll talk about African American English later, but it’s important to remember that languages change so the dialect in this story will be different from today’s AAE. I want to have students read the entire story first before we spend time discussing dialect or AAE. Sometimes I begin with this kind of information, but I wanted to jump right into the story this time.

5 Things I’ll expect you to learn
1. How to read dialect 2. How to use evidence from the story to describe the theme 3. How to read a difficult story independently but with help I tell my students what I want them to learn. These are the teaching objectives. I also describe how I’ll assess them. Students will be able to translate a paragraph of dialect into Standard English and explain how removing dialect changes the story (Bloom’s levels: Comprehend and Apply). Students will be able to use evidence from the story to present an argument about the theme (Bloom’s levels: Create/Synthesize). Students will read with understanding a grade-level story independently with appropriate scaffolding.

6 Also…… 1. How to become engaged in a story, even if it doesn’t seem interesting at first. 2. How to figure out characters in stories. These are objectives I have for the lesson that are not assessed. I always have some kind of affective or motivational objective. Sometimes I assess them but most often I don’t. Although I could have focused on character analysis in this story, I decided not to assess it but it certainly is something that I will want students to pay attention to during the lessons.

7 Here is the first paragraph of the story.
The puddle had frozen over, and me and Cathy went stompin in it. The twins from the next door, Tyrone and Terry, were swingin so high out of sight we forgot we were waitin our turn on the tire. Cathy jumped up and came down hard on her heels and started tap-dancin. And the frozen patch splinterin every which way underneath kinda spooky. “Looks like a plastic spider web, she said. “A sort of weird spider, I guess, with many mental problems.” But really it looked like the crystal paperweight Granny kept in the parlor. She was on the back porch, Granny was, making the cakes drunk. The old ladle dirpping rum into the Christmas tins, like it used to drip maple syrup into the pails when we lived in the Judson’s woods, like it poured cider into the vats when we were on the Cooper place, like it used to scoop buttermilk and soft cheese when we lived at the dairy. I’ll read the first paragraph out loud so students can hear how the dialect sounds. I’ll first scaffold the reading of this story by having students listen to an audio version. I don’t typically do this, but dialect is difficult to understand when reading it. I may differentiate by having some students read silently and some listen to the audio version. I will use a DR-TA to facilitate comprehension by stopping two times and asking students what is happening and what they think will happen next.

8 Checking understanding
What’s happening in the story? What do you think will happen next? I will have students do a Think-Pair-Share with the DR-TA so that they get the benefit of other students’ thinking. I will emphasize that they need to remember the sequence of events in the story.

9 Is the man with the camera invading this family’s privacy?
Think for a moment… Is the man with the camera invading this family’s privacy? I want to return to the theme so that students don’t get bogged down. If the class has been quiet and not participating, I’ll have them discuss this in small groups for 2-3 minutes. If the class is noisy, I’ll ask them to think quietly and not talk.

10 What happened? Look back at the text as you list the events in sequence.
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7 I don’t expect everyone to have understood the story by listening to the story one time. This is just a check for understanding so I can know how well the students understand the plot. I’ll collect the students’ work and then we’ll go over the events together in class. I’ll have students mark the text as we do this by underlining or placing a sticky note on the beginning of an event.

11 Issues of Power and Privacy
Did the camera men have the right to take pictures? What do you think the government officials will say when they return to their office? How does this story present issues of power? I’m not sure how much time we’ll have left to discuss these questions. If we have only a few minutes, I’ll have students think about them silently. If we have more than 5 minutes, we’ll discuss them.

12 Exit Slips Write one or two sentences on your index card about this question: Were Granny and Granddaddy’s response to the photographers justified? I want to get back to the theme now that the students have an understanding of the events. I want students to leave thinking about this idea. I will be asking it again tomorrow using a discussion web. I may play more music as students leave the room.

13 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird
Day 2 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird Today I want students to understand some of the context of the story and to look for ways this story is relevant to their lives. I also want to spend time looking at the dialect and figurative language in the story. I’ll play some 60s music as they come into class.

14 Civil Rights Movement Know it Heard/Seen No Clue Martin Luther King
Voting Rights Act 1965 Freedom Riders Integration Black pride I’ll begin by discussing the historical context. Students may not know very much about the Civil Rights Movement so I’ll take about 5 minutes to set the stage. I will focus on the newness of African Americans feeling free to stand up to people in government.

15 1960s moments Play Civil Rights video I will give students a feeling of the times through this short video. I don’t want to stray too far from the story, but I think it’s critical for students to understand the times.

16 Second reading Nonstandard grammar Unusual vocabulary
Idiomatic expressions I’ll have students use the copied pages of the story to highlight the kinds of dialects the authors used in this story. I’ll have green, red, and yellow highlighters available. I may have students work independently if I think they are able. If not, they’ll work in groups. I will most likely assign each group to begin with a different kind of dialect feature. Some groups will begin with nonstandard grammar, others will begin with unusual vocabulary, and the rest will look for idiomatic expressions. I’ll differentiate by placing students into mixed ability groups and also by the kind of dialect feature they are finding.

17 Dialect Nonstandard grammar
“The puddle had frozen over, and me and Cathy… “Cathy and I” is standard because “I” is one of the subjects of the sentence. Unusual vocabulary The screen door bammin soft…. We can figure out this word by its context. What word would you use? Idiomatic expressions Making cakes drunk… Idioms are phrases that make no sense just looking at the words. I’ll begin discussing dialect by having students look at three types of dialect in the story. After I’ve explained these examples, students will read the story again to find dialect again.

18 Dialect discussion Give me one example of each of these:
Nonstandard grammar Unusual vocabulary Idiomatic expressions I want to bring the dialect discussion to a close fairly quickly so we can get back to other aspects of this text. I’ll type them on the PP as we discuss.

19 Dialect and Author’s Craft
Why do you think the author wrote the story in dialect? How does using dialect evidence power? Do you think the use of dialect was effective? I want to move back to the theme and yet show students how the author used dialect for a reason. I expect students to be able to discuss these questions in the entire class fairly easily.

20 Looking at Characters, Third reading
Actions Feelings Thoughts Conversations I need to transition back to the story. I’ll say something like, “Granny and Granddaddy experienced powerlessness for their entire lives. Let’s look at them more closely in this story. How does the author portray them?” I’ll then break up into groups and have students read through the story again, looking at Granny and Granddaddy.

21 Granny Actions Feelings Thoughts Conversations
I’ll take student ideas to develop this chart.

22 Granddaddy Actions Feelings Thoughts Conversations
I’ll take student ideas to develop this chart.

23 Assessment: Objective #2
Take one of Granny’s speeches or conversations in “Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird,” and rewrite it in standard, formal English. How is Granny’s character changed when her dialect is taken away from her? I’ll grade using a checklist to determine whether or not the translation was acceptable. I’ll also check whether students have an understanding of how the dialect was used to further the character by whether it’s reasonable or not. I don’t expect 9th graders to be expert dialect readers but they should have this basic skill.

24 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird
Day 3 Blues Ain’t No Mockin Bird I think the students will be ready to finish this story today. They should be very familiar with the story, and now we can think more deeply about the theme.

25 Refreshing our Memory What happened in the story?
Why is the time period that the story was written important to our understanding? How was power portrayed in the story? What do you think about the privacy issue illustrated in the story? I want to move faster today. I may conduct a whole class discussion, recapping the important issues. If students are quiet, I’ll have them address these questions in small groups.

26 Making Connections Develop a scenario taking place today that concerns issues of privacy. In groups of 3 or 4, come up with a scenario that could happen to YOU or to someone else who is living today. Before moving to the final activity of this lesson, I want students to think once more about the relevance of the story to their lives. I will give students 5 minutes or so to think of a scenario. Then I’ll have them report on them in class.

27 Assessing reading a. Which characters play a part in this story’s conflict? Which ones are onlookers? b. What details in the story explain why Granny has moved so often? Students should be able to complete this paper in 15 minutes. If they can’t, they have not been engaged in the task. If students are really involved, I may give them more class time tomorrow to work on the papers. I’m just looking for a quick assessment of their ability to connect the story to their lives. This type of writing is also part of our state assessment so it is good practice for them. I’m not going to spend time going over the structure of this type of writing today. I’ll do that another time.

28 c. Why do the two men want to film the family?
d. Why does Granny resent the film crew? e. What action does Granddaddy Cain finally take to resolve Granny’s conflict with the camera crew?

29 Assessing objective #1 Write an essay addressing this question.
Do you think the government had the right to invade Granny and Granddaddy's privacy? Bolster your argument using evidence from the story and your own beliefs. I want to assess how well students understood the story’s theme and whether they can relate it to other situations.

30 I’ll use this rubric to score the papers.

31 Final words… Literature has the capacity to help us understand human behavior in the past, and it also helps us think about current issues. When we identify themes in literature, we are able to understand ourselves and our world in new ways. After students have finished writing, I’ll use the final 5 minutes in class for some final words and to encourage outside literacy. I want students to understand how this type of story, even though written quite a long time ago, is applicable today. I want students to look for these connections in everything they read in this class.

32 Take it home… Ask your parents/guardians what they think about the issue of privacy. Continue this discussion on our classroom blog. Look at the website links I’ve posted on our class website to learn more about the author, the Civil Rights Movement, and hawks. Some, but not all students, will be captivated by this subject. I hope they continue the discussion and learn more on their own. I expect a few students to take advantage of this continued learning, especially since we’ll be discussing other stories that emphasize issues of power and privlege. Of course, I’ll play more music as the students leave the class. Aretha Franklin once more!

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